My Garden This Weekend – 7/12/14

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It seems a while since I have done a ‘My Garden this Weekend’ post  partly due to bad weather but also due to other demands on my time.  However, this weekend I had the luxury of a weekend with no plans and despite the weather being changeable with sudden showers I still managed to steal a few hours both days to potter.

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I think my favourite activity in the garden is pottering.  I have tasks that really need doing and also things I would like to do and finding a balance is often a challenge.  However the rain which made some areas of the garden difficult to work in meant my choices were restricted to working in areas close to the house were the ground was firm under foot and so a combination of tasks and plans were achieved.

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Picking up dead leaves and pulling up weeds is so satisfying; from a jumbled mess signs of spring are uncovered and left on show to cheer you through the cold grey days.  I was particularly delighted to see that my one remaining Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has at least three flower buds emerging. I planted 3 or 4 some years back and I am thrilled that one has established tucked in between a rhododendron and box pyramid. Last year there were two flowers so to see an extra one emerging is very rewarding.

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There are swelling buds on the rhododendrons and one of the camellias.  Strangely the second camellia which is planted alongside only has a couple of buds which look quite under developed.  This will be its second year in this location and it was moved here as it was very weak looking in its original location.  The plant has put on growth so maybe its new location is better but the leaves still look a little chlorotic so I might try giving it a feed in the spring.

Another plant showing yellowing leaves is the Sarcococca.  It seems to dislike being planted by the black bamboo in the front garden and its dark green leaves have become more yellow.  Although it is covered in berries from last year’s flowers there is a lack of new young leaves and not too many obvious flowers.  I wonder if the soil is just to damp for it.  So I have dug it up and potted it up in a large pot with the hope that this be a better environment for it and it will recover.  If it does then it will have a winter home adjacent to the front door so we can benefit from the scent of the flowers.

2014_12060020There is evidence of all sorts of bulbs pushing their leaves up through the ground and in one case, Galanthus ‘Ding  Dong’ is even showing signs of flowering soon.  I frequently come across bulbs, particularly snowdrop, which seem to have pushed themselves up onto the surface of the soil and I have no idea why.  I haven’t dug them up and they haven’t been disturbed by anything else but there they are lying on the edge of the border, ready for me to dutiful replant them – very strange.

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A couple of Hippeastrum bulbs arrived this week; purchased on a whim having read an article in The Garden magazine.  Strangely the information sheet that came with them advised that the bases and roots should be immersed in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting.  I suspect this is to rehydrate the roots but it’s not advice I have come across before.  I dutiful followed the advice and we shall see how they do compared to the very cheap one I bought at the local supermarket that came wrapped in some dry compost.

I finished off by tidying the patio borders where again lots of snowdrops are starting to appear.  I tied in the winter jasmine which has been flowering for weeks and cut back the clematis which occupies the same bit of wall.  I have decided that the clematis and jasmine are not a good combination so the clematis will come out in the spring and will be trained up the house wall which I think will be a preferable location and it should flower better.

What could be better to sit down on a Sunday evening having spent some hours outside on a cool bright winter’s day and to look out at a border all neat and tidy and ready for Spring.

 

 

Always Trust Your Instincts

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This photograph represents a serious amongst of angst and irritation that I have experienced over the last few weeks.

I have had my small greenhouse (6′ x 4′) for probably 8 years and it has a small thermostatically controlled electric heater.  Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I use the greenhouse extensively throughout the year.  In recent years it has been home to a tender succulent collection which came through the recent cold winters, when we had temperatures down to -18C for days on end, unscathed.

I have never been tempted to use bubble-wrap. In fact the use of bubble-wrap seems so wrong to me as in my mind it could create condensation and this isn’t great for overwintering plants possibly leading to Botrytis cinerea. However, for some obscure reason I seem to have lost my ability to listen to my instincts, never a good thing, and I have started to doubt myself.  Having changed things around in the greenhouse so I can display my alpine collection I have been feeling all at sea and somewhat bewildered about using a sand plunge.  So no surprise that reading about others putting up bubble wrap I trotted off and bought a role along with the fiddly plastic widget things for attaching the plastic to the frame.

Now this blog might be called ‘The Patient Gardener” but I am not really a patient person especially when it comes to fiddly and tricky inanimate objects.  Over two weekends I have carefully cut panels of the wrap and painstakingly attached them to the sides of the greenhouse which worked reasonably well.  Then it was time for covering the roof. What a faff! It isn’t easy to hold up a sheet of bubble wrap while you try to push one of the tiny plastic widgets into the gully in the frame.

That was two weeks ago.  In a matter of days the panels on the roof started to droop and it was clear that the clips that are meant to hold the wrap on the side bars were coming off. More time was spent using more clips to secure the panels better but No! the panels were intent on coming adrift which defeated the whole object.  Then to make matters worse when I went in the greenhouse this weekend to sort out the problem I found myself in a slow cold shower.  My theory about the condensation had proved to be right and there was a constant drip drip of cold water on to my alpines – disaster.  The one thing alpines don’t like is winter wet so here I was creating an environment that was exactly what they, and to be honest me,  didn’t like.  I have also noticed that the light levels are reduced by the opaqueness of the wrap which isn’t what you want for plants growing and flowering over winter as it produces plants with long drawn out stems.

I have to be honest that at this point I had a complete sense of humour failure and the bubble wrap on the roof was removed in a matter of minutes with a lot of muttering and maybe a few profanities.  What a complete waste of time and money.  It has cost me more to buy the wrap and fixings than I would spend heating the greenhouse even in a very cold winter and I haven’t noticed any increase in the greenhouse’s temperature when the wrap was up.

I am so cross that I didn’t trust my instincts and allowed myself to be swayed by others’ views.  I am sure that if you have a large greenhouse then bubble wrap will have an impact your heating bills which will no doubt be much higher than mine.  I can also see it is good for partitioning off an area of the greenhouse which you want to keep warmer but it isn’t for me or my plants.

Interestingly on the day I had to dry my hair after getting so wet removing the loathed wrap I went to a lunch with my local Alpine Garden Society Committee and shared my tribulations with others.  The general consensus was that bubble wrap wasn’t ideal for alpines and that it would be better if I cover the pots with fleece if the temperatures drop and if I am really concerned then I can put a layer of bubble wrap on top of the fleece to provide a little more protection.

The lesson learnt is to trust my instincts and not follow everyone else blindly if it doesn’t make sense to me.

End of Month View – November 2014

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November this year has been wet and mild resulting in the weeds and grass still growing, even the drop of temperature earlier this week was short-lived and we are back to mild temperatures for the time of year and fog. Whilst I’m not so keen on the continual dampness the fog does add to the real autumnal feel which is nice as there are less fallen leaves in the garden this year due to the removal of the majority of the willow and some of the large prunus.

The hardy exotic border and new seating area remains my favourite part of the garden and I hope the plants are hardy enough to come through whatever this winter throws at us. I am hoping that it will be a mild winter and the plant will have another year to establish before they have to cope with prolonged cold.

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I am surprised at how lush the garden still is. The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border) is filling out and I am hopefully for a good display next year when the roses, aquilegias and geraniums start to flower.

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I worked through the Big Border last week, weeding and cutting back.  I want to move the Cotinus to the corner of the border in the foreground and I need to build up the log edging of the path but aside from that the border should look after itself now until the hellebores flower in the early spring.  I will cut the hellebore foliage back probably in late December.

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The other end of the Big Border.  I have also tidied up the border on the other side of the grass path and as I mentioned last week this is an area I want to tackle next year to make the planting stronger, it can’t get any weaker!  I have finally got the start of an idea of what I want to put in here and it won’t surprise you to learn it is foliage based.  I have a hankering for a dark-leaved banana or maybe as Rusty Duck has suggested a hardy Hedychium and this has led to me deciding to extend the hardy exotic planting from the slope behind but with plants that appreciate a little more light.  2014_11280005

The other end of the border I am talking about which has been much shadier but I suspect will be lighter now due to the willow being cut back so drastically.  The planting here is predominately foliage based so I think I will finally be able to make the whole border work rather than it feeling like two halves.

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The next area due an autumn tidy up is the original woodland border.  Again it will be interesting next year to see how the shade has been affected by the tree work.  I think I need to do a little re-jigging just to stop plants swamping each other but I need them to reappear in the spring so I can remember what I had planned to do. However, I am very pleased with how the changes I made to the back of the border have worked out this year adding depth and interest as well as height.

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Going down in scale the spring/patio border is at one of its low points in the year.  The late summer interest is well over but hopefully come early spring there will be lots of colour from snowdrops and other bulbs.  Saying that I have a sneaky suspicion that I meant to add more bulbs this autumn and if so I have failed to do this.

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The staging is still working hard and currently supporting the collection of pots planted up with collections of various alpine plants and the hardy succulents.  It is also hosting all the pots I have emptied of dahlias.  Last year I planted these up with tulips which were OK but I think I want to add some more permanent plantings in them so I have decided to leave them empty over winter.

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Finally the hardy succulent trough has been more successful than I ever anticipated.  The various sempervivums have bulked up and filled out.  However, I will be happier once my amateurish concrete repair mellows a little.

As ever any one is welcome to join in this monthly post and use it how they wish.  Some focus on one area of their garden and others the whole garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can come and visit you.

Book Review: The Writer’s Garden

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There seems to be a plethora of books about gardens in various locations of the world or the UK at the moment so finding a new angle is a challenge.  Jackie Bennett has taken the approach of collecting together an assortment of gardens in the UK which either inspired or belonged to some of our best known writers and bringing them together in The Writer’s Garden

Whilst the book is essentially another glossy image laden coffee table book on gardens it has the distinction of including potted histories of each of the writers from Sir Walter Scott through Henry James to Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie and how they encountered or created the featured garden, what works they were inspired to write at this time and the current status of the garden.

The book is well written and researched and as you would expect from a garden book from the Frances Lincoln stables, includes excellent and plentiful photographs by Richard Hanson. However, I did find the premise of the book a little strained at times if you take the title ‘The Writer’s Garden’ literally.   Few of the writers were actually hands on gardeners with the exception possibly of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.  However, many created the gardens included, through the employment of gardeners,  due to wealth generated from their success as writers including Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy and they seem to have had a strong desire to create a place to escape to presumably from the celebrity caused by their writing – Kipling’s Batemans is an example.

I was surprised that Lumb Bank was  included for Ted Hughes. It was a property he bought in the Pennines where he had lived until 8, but only lived in for little more than a year.  Whilst he did not live at Lumb Bank for long he was instrumental in it being converted into a retreat for writers.  Robert Burns’ property Ellisland was also, for me, another tenuous inclusion given that this was a farm that Burns bought and worked to provide for his family and only lived in for 3 years however it is whilst he was working the land during the day that he collected the traditional songs he would rework or came up with the stories he would tell.

The tag line for the book ‘How gardens inspired our best-loved authors’ is far more relevant to the content than the title.  If you have an interest in literature, as well as gardens, this book will provide some fascinating insights into many authors you have probably read, or at least know of.  Having studied literature at degree level including the background of some of the authors featured I still found plenty of information that was new to me and which helped to provide an interesting context for books I have enjoyed in the past.